Conspecifics of many animal species physically compete to gain reproductive resources and thus fitness. Despite the importance of competitive ability across the animal kingdom, specific traits that influence or underpin competitive ability are poorly characterized. Here, we investigate whether there are genetic influences on competitive ability within male house mice. Additionally, we examined if litter demographics (litter size and litter sex ratio) influence competitive ability. We phenotyped two generations for a male s ability to possess a reproductive resource--a prime nesting site--using semi-natural enclosures with mixed sex groupings. We used the animal model coupled with an extensive pedigree to estimate several genetic parameters. Competitive ability was found to be highly heritable, but only displayed a moderate genetic correlation to body mass. Interestingly, litter sex ratio had a weak negative influence on competitive ability. Litter size had no significant influence on competitive ability. Our study also highlights how much remians unknown about the proximal causes of competitive ability.
Heritability; Genetic Correlation; Life-History Evolution; Male-Male Competition; Sexual Selection
Necropsies and extensive histological evaluation for clinical and sub-clinical disease of approximately three hundred Portuguese Water dogs are available as part of an ongoing study to assess their state of health at end of life. Throughout life these dogs enjoyed a variety of lifestyles and environments. Here we carry out retrospective quantitative assessments of life-time dietary input and physical activity for each dog. To do this, collagens from skull vault bone and from dentine have been analyzed for ratios of stable isotopes to determine differences in diet that individual dogs experienced during late or early life respectively. Robustness of skull bone (weight/unit of skull size) was used as a relative indicator of the amount of physical activity experienced during a dog’s lifetime. These environmental parameters were correlated with the frequency and severity of specific disease processes determined at necropsy. Both measures were shown to exert significant low-level (r < 25%) differential effects on specific diseases. The value of retrospective analysis of environmental influences is discussed.
Portuguese Water Dog; Necropsy; Histopathology; Exercise; Nutrition; Stable Isotope; Skull; Dentine; Collagen
A dog model has been used to evaluate histological changes arising from senescence. Autopsies of 145 Portuguese Water Dogs have been used to evaluate the individual and group “state of health” at time of death. For each dog, weights or dimensions of organs or tissues were obtained, together with histological evaluation of tissues. Twenty-three morphological metrics correlated significantly to age at death. Many of these involved muscles; others were associated with derivatives of embryonic foregut. The latter included lengths of the small intestine and trachea as well as weights of the stomach and some lung lobes. Nearly all of the dogs examined had histological changes in multiple tissues, ranging from two to 12 per dog. Associations among pathologies included inflammatory bowel disease with osteoporosis and dental calculus/periodontitis with atherosclerosis and amyloidosis. In addition, two clusters of histological changes were correlated to aging: hyperplasia, frequency of adenomas, and hemosiderosis constituted one group; inflammation, plasmacytic and lymphocytic infiltration, fibrosis, and atrophy, another. Heritability analysis indicated that many of the changes in tissue/organ morphology or histology could be heritable and possibly associated with IGF1, but more autopsies will be required to substantiate these genetic relationships.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11357-010-9181-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Age of death; Autopsy; Dog; Pathology; Histology
We recently showed that genes at 3 loci account for the majority of variation in canine fur. Allelic variation at genes controlling length of fur, texture, and curl is responsible for the striking phenotypic variety observed among purebred dogs in the United States today. In this paper, we investigate the phenomenon of “improper coat” (IC) or a coat that is not typical of the breed. IC is occasionally observed among specific breeds, such as the Portuguese Water Dog (PWD), and is characterized by short hair on the head, face, and lower legs, rather than a thick and even coat covering the whole body. The IC is reminiscent of that observed on the curly or flat-coated retriever, thus making such dogs unable to compete effectively in conformation events. We have found that the presence of the wild-type allele, rather than the expected variant allele at the R-spondin 2 (RSPO2) gene, accounts for this phenotype. The development of a genetic test that distinguishes these 2 allelic types would allow breeders to easily avoid producing PWD with ICs.
fur; furnishings; genetics; morphology; mutation
During the second part of the 20th century, Belyaev selected tame and aggressive foxes (Vulpes vulpes), in an effort known as the “farm-fox experiment”, to recapitulate the process of animal domestication. Using these tame and aggressive foxes as founders of segregant backcross and intercross populations we have employed interval mapping to identify a locus for tame behavior on fox chromosome VVU12. This locus is orthologous to, and therefore validates, a genomic region recently implicated in canine domestication. The tame versus aggressive behavioral phenotype was characterized as the first principal component (PC) of a PC matrix made up of many distinct behavioral traits (e.g. wags tail; comes to the front of the cage; allows head to be touched; holds observer’s hand with its mouth; etc.). Mean values of this PC for F1, backcross and intercross populations defined a linear gradient of heritable behavior ranging from tame to aggressive. The second PC did not follow such a gradient, but also mapped to VVU12, and distinguished between active and passive behaviors. These data suggest that 1) there are at least two VVU12 loci associated with behavior; 2) expression of these loci is dependent on interactions with other parts of the genome (the genome context) and therefore varies from one crossbred population to another depending on the individual parents that participated in the cross.
behavior genetics; domestication; social behavior; Vulpes vulpes; Canis familiaris
Directional asymmetry (DA) is a characteristic of most vertebrates, most strikingly exhibited by the placement of various organs (heart, lungs, liver, etc.) but also noted in small differences in the metrics of skeletal structures such as the pelvis of certain fish or sauropsids. We have analyzed DA in the skeleton of the fox (V. vulpes), using ~1,000 radiographs of foxes from populations used in the genetic analysis of behavior and morphology. Careful measurements from this robust data base demonstrate that: 1) DA occurs in the limb bones, the ileum, and ischium and in the mandible; 2) regardless of the direction of the length asymmetry vector of a particular skeletal unit, the vectorial direction of length is always opposite to that of width; 3) with the exception of the humerus and radius, there is no correlation or inverse correlation between vectorial amplitudes or magnitudes of bone asymmetries. 4) Postnatal measurements on foxes demonstrate that the asymmetry increases after birth and continues to change (increasing or decreasing) during postnatal growth. 5) A behavior test for preferential use of a specific forelimb exhibited fluctuating asymmetry but not DA. None of the skeletal asymmetries were significantly correlated with a preferential use of a specific forelimb. We suggest that for the majority of fox skeletal parameters, growth on the right and left side of the fox are differentially biased resulting in fixed differences between the two sides in either the rate of growth or the length of the period during which growth occurs. Random effects around these fixed differences perturb the magnitude of the effects such that the magnitudes of length and width asymmetries are not inversely correlated at the level of individual animals.
fox; V. vulpes; skeleton; directional asymmetry; pelvis; mandible; limb bone
Coat color and type are essential characteristics of domestic dog breeds. Although the genetic basis of coat color has been well characterized, relatively little is known about the genes influencing coat growth pattern, length, and curl. We performed genome-wide association studies of more than 1000 dogs from 80 domestic breeds to identify genes associated with canine fur phenotypes. Taking advantage of both inter- and intrabreed variability, we identified distinct mutations in three genes, RSPO2, FGF5, and KRT71 (encoding R-spondin–2, fibroblast growth factor–5, and keratin-71, respectively), that together account for most coat phenotypes in purebred dogs in the United States. Thus, an array of varied and seemingly complex phenotypes can be reduced to the combinatorial effects of only a few genes.
Traits that have been stringently selected to conform to specific criteria in a closed population are phenotypic stereotypes. In dogs, Canis familiaris, such stereotypes have been produced by breeding for conformation, performance (behaviors), etc. We measured phenotypes on a representative sample to establish breed stereotypes. DNA samples from 147 dog breeds were used to characterize single nucleotide polymorphism allele frequencies for association mapping of breed stereotypes. We identified significant size loci (quantitative trait loci [QTLs]), implicating candidate genes appropriate to regulation of size (e.g., IGF1, IGF2BP2
SMAD2, etc.). Analysis of other morphological stereotypes, also under extreme selection, identified many additional significant loci. Behavioral loci for herding, pointing, and boldness implicated candidate genes appropriate to behavior (e.g., MC2R, DRD1, and PCDH9). Significant loci for longevity, a breed characteristic inversely correlated with breed size, were identified. The power of this approach to identify loci regulating the incidence of specific polygenic diseases is demonstrated by the association of a specific IGF1 haplotype with hip dysplasia, patella luxation, and pacreatitis.
association; canine; disease; longevity; morphology; QTL
The domestic dog exhibits greater diversity in body size than any other terrestrial vertebrate. We used a strategy that exploits the breed structure of dogs to investigate the genetic basis of size. First, through a genome-wide scan, we identified a major quantitative trait locus (QTL) on chromosome 15 influencing size variation within a single breed. Second, we examined genetic variation in the 15-megabase interval surrounding the QTL in small and giant breeds and found marked evidence for a selective sweep spanning a single gene (IGF1), encoding insulin-like growth factor 1. A single IGF1 single-nucleotide polymorphism haplotype is common to all small breeds and nearly absent from giant breeds, suggesting that the same causal sequence variant is a major contributor to body size in all small dogs.
Purebred dogs are a valuable resource for genetic analysis of quantitative traits. Quantitative traits are complex, controlled by many genes that are contained within regions of the genome known as quantitative trait loci (QTL). The genetic architecture of quantitative traits is defined by the characteristics of these genes: their number, the magnitude of their effects, their positions in the genome and their interactions with each other. QTL analysis is a valuable tool for exploring genetic architecture, and highlighting regions of the genome that contribute to the variation of a trait within a population.
In dogs hip joint laxity that can lead to degenerative joint disease (DJD) is frequent and heritable, providing a genetic model for some aspects of the human disease. We have used Portuguese water dogs (PWDs) to identify Quantitative trait loci (QTLs) that regulate laxity in the hip joint.A population of 286 PWDs, each characterized by ca. 500 molecular genetic markers, was analyzed for subluxation of the hip joint as measured by the Norberg angle, a quantitative radiographic measure of laxity. A significant directed asymmetry was observed, such that greater laxity was observed in the left than the right hip. This asymmetry was not heritable. However, the average Norberg angle was highly heritable as were the Norberg angles of either the right or left hips. After correction for pedigree effects, two QTLs were identified using the metrics of the left and right hips as separate data sets. Both are on canine chromosome 1 (CFA1), separated by about 95 Mb. One QTL, associated with the SSR marker FH2524 was significant for the left, but not the right hip. The other, associated with FH2598, was significant for the right but not the left hip. For both QTLs, some extreme phenotypes were best explained by specific interactions between haplotypes.
quantitative trait loci (QTLs); dog; hip laxity; bilateral asymmetry; Norberg angle; Canine genetics; hip dysplasia
Genetic variation in functionally integrated skeletal traits can be maintained over 10 million years despite bottlenecks and stringent selection. Here, we describe an analysis of the genetic architecture of the canid axial skeleton using populations of the Portuguese Water Dog Canis familiaris) and silver fox (Vulpes vulpes). Twenty-one skeletal metrics taken from radiographs of the forelimbs and hind limbs of the fox and dog were used to construct separate anatomical principal component (PC) matrices of the two species. In both species, 15 of the 21 PCs exhibited significant heritability, ranging from 25% to 70%. The second PC, in both species, represents a trade-off in which limb-bone width is inversely correlated with limb-bone length. PC2 accounts for approximately 15% of the observed skeletal variation, ~30% of the variation in shape. Many of the other significant PCs affect very small amounts of variation (e.g., 0.2–2%) along trade-off axes that partition function between the forelimbs and hind limbs. These PCs represent shape axes in which an increase in size of an element of the forelimb is associated with a decrease in size of an element of the hind limb and vice versa. In most cases, these trade-offs are heritable in both species and genetic loci have been identified in the Portuguese Water Dog for many of these. These PCs, present in both the dog and the fox, include ones that affect lengths of the forelimb versus the hind limb, length of the forefoot versus that of the hind foot, muscle moment (i.e., lever) arms of the forelimb versus hind limb, and cortical thickness of the bones of the forelimb versus hind limb. These inverse relationships suggest that genetic regulation of the axial skeleton results, in part, from the action of genes that influence suites of functionally integrated traits. Their presence in both dogs and foxes suggests that the genes controlling the regulation of these PCs of the forelimb versus hind limb may be found in other tetrapod taxa.